On December 8, over 100 tenants gathered at 53, Obayon Street, Akoka, Lagos, realised that fraudulent agents had rented a house of only 11 flats to all of them.
Ogbeifun, one of the victims, told FIJ that when he desperately needed a new apartment in September, he did not get any until he saw a real estate banner showing houses for rent.
“I saw a number on the banner and dialled it. An agent picked up the call and offered to direct me to the house shown in the banner. When we got to the house, I saw that it was being renovated,” Ogbeifun told FIJ.
The agent told Ogbeifun that, on completion, that he would pay a total of N650,000 for a one-bedroom mini-flat. Ogbeifun asked the agent to give him a discount, but he directed him to someone he described as the owner of the house, saying whatever he said was final.
“The agent, Mr. Paul, directed me to one Alhaji Tunji Wale, who he said inherited the house from his father. Alhaji told me to pay N550,000, adding that I might not get the room I liked,” he said.
“I paid him N400,000 on October 2, and I intended to pay up the rest by the time the bricklayers finished the renovation of the house. I didn’t suspect that anything was wrong. I visited the house every Monday, but the agent told me not to bother.”
According to Ogbeifun, the agent said it was a waste of time to frequently visit the house, assuring him that he would move in on October 20. The agent said the renovation was slow because the Lagos State Residents Registration Agency (LASRRA) insisted on due process.
Ogbeifun did not visit the house until December 8. When he got to there, he saw a host of angry and broken-hearted people at the gate and many more inside the compound in tears.
“One of them asked me, ‘Did you also pay for this house?’ I replied in the affirmative. Then she said, ‘You’ve been scammed’. How could I have been scammed? I was here several times,” he said.
Before Ogbeifun left the house on Wednesday, he learned that 103 other people had been scammed by more than 10 men who claimed to be agents for the same house.
“The agent who scammed me did not do it alone; he did it with a team that collected at least N300,000 from over 103 people. After collecting our moneys, they all disappeared,” he explained.
FIJ learnt that this group of scammers posing as house agents defrauded tens of people. A source who asked not to be named told FIJ he and many others were given a receipt with a letterhead after paying for a space in the house.
Oluwatoyese Agoro, who lost N300,000 to the group of scammers, said one Paul contacted him in October and said he got his number from a group of estate agents. Not surprised because he was looking for a new apartment, he decided to pay Paul after seeing the renovated building.
“You couldn’t even know you’d be scammed. When I got there the first time, they were working, the second time, they were fixing the toilets, so I believed all I saw,” Agoro told FIJ.
From time to time, Agoro would go to the house to see the progress of the renovation. On December 8, he went to check the house but saw many people who had also paid for an apartment.
“They were more than 100, and we’ve found 150 other people these agents defrauded. I later learnt that these agents have been using the house to defraud people since June,” he said.
“Just last week, some people who paid rent to these agents met some of them and beat them. The agents gave them the keys to the house and ran away. Since then, no one has seen them.”
Agoro also said he and some other victims of Paul and his team’s fraud wrote a petition to Panti Police Station, but the officers said all the victims had to contribute N10,000 for tracking before they could take action.
FIJ also learnt that many of the victims of these agents are students of the University of Lagos (Unilag) and Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH).
Eniola Abbey, a student of Yabatech who lost N300,000 to Paul and his team, said he took a loan to pay for rent only to be scammed.
Wale Turner, a victim of Paul’s fraud, said he lost N380,000. He met Paul on November 29 and paid on December 1 when Paul assured him the house would be completed soon.
Now, Turner does not know what to do as there are no traces of Paul and his men.
FIJ learned that Paul and his men absconded with over N60 million. Paul and Wale’s phone numbers were switched off when FIJ called them. They had also not responded to text messages sent to them at press time.
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